joe cook

The online classroom

Jo Cook is an online training specialist, with a background in Learning and Development, technology and journalism. Jo delivers workshops to upskill trainers and designers for the live online learning environment. Design work and producing online content has been the focus with Impact International clients to ensure an interactive and enjoyable learning experience, with glowing feedback. Jo’s training background includes further and higher education, the charity sector, small and large organisations, including CNN News and Bupa International.

In this short piece, Jo shares her Top Tips for designing a training session for the online classroom.

Be positive

When considering the online tools/software you have, focus on what they can do rather than wishing for something different. Whilst you might personally get frustrated by how one online classroom functions compared to another, none of that should get in the way for the learner.

Know your tools

If you already have a piece of software in-house, you need to get to know that tool really well. Find out what interaction tools there are and how others are using them. I’ve found things in online tools which I thought were drawbacks, only to see someone else using them for amazing activities. Be creative in your thinking.

The right learning intervention?

I have many conversations with clients who are already looking at solutions. I hear things like: “We need to scope it out more, but we are thinking of maybe four webinars of about an hour each, over two weeks, maybe some homework in the middle”. Many of you already know that this is the wrong starting place. Instead, the focus needs to be on the business need, understanding that and what people actually need to do for successful change. Only from here can we look at whether people actually just need better support tools, coaching, training or anything from a plethora of other options. Don’t just leap to the conclusion that online training is the right solution.

Face to face skills

Many methods used for instructor-led training are still important for the online session. Focus on what the best activity would be and what they would do were they face-to-face, then focus on the technology afterwards. Consider the key learning points, the actions that attendees will need to be able to take away and actually do; then on the activities in the session to learn or reinforce that knowledge and those skills. For most learning activities there is an online equivalent that’s as good, or better, or just different. There are many simple ways to replicate what would normally be small group work (break-out rooms), using flip charts (annotation mark-up tools), partnered discussion (using private chat features of the text panel) and so on. Some activities end up being better online than planned due to the options available, such as polling being easy to use.

I love it when a plan comes together

Whether delivering alone, or as part of a team, you need a plan. This could be a traditional lesson plan or a script; whatever is best for you as an individual, your team and your organisation. Be clear about who is saying and doing what, and when. I like to split up the training delivery and the technical actions. If I’m delivering solo, it reminds me to load and save polls, or prompts the steps I need to take in the software I’m using. If I’m hosting for someone else, it allows the less technically knowledgeable trainer to be confident in what is going to happen – and allows me to step into the gap for a moment if there’s any technical issue.

Have a back up

It’s so important to have a ‘Plan B’! Using audio and video clips in online sessions is brilliant for delivering the message in a different way, providing variety for the attendees and also perhaps reducing resource needs, especially if it’s a person in the clip. However, if you aren’t using Voice over IP (audio through the web conferencing system) it’s a real challenge to get audio played across a phone conference. Many mobile devices don’t support webcam or video playback; there are also issues with bandwidth to take into account. Having other options, such as well-designed slides with photos and quotes of key points, is imperative. In some cases, I’ve bought my very poor acting skills to the fore to demonstrate something where an audio clip failed!

Read Jo’s full article here.